Migrants at Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park 390.
(photo credit: Tamir Kalifa)
Those looking to prevent the deportation of South Sudanese citizens at the end
of the month are welcome to volunteer to be foster families for them, Interior
Minister Eli Yishai said on Wednesday.
“They are welcome to serve as
foster families for them. During my time as interior minister I have done and
will continue to do what I can to preserve Israel as a Jewish country,” Yishai
The Shas minister highlighted his efforts to complete the Sinai
border fence to stop the entry of infiltrators via Egypt and his work to ensure
funding for a detention facility in the Negev that will hold thousands of
illegal migrants from Africa.
Yishai said he would continue to work
toward “the deportation of infiltrators to their home countries.”
spokesman for Yishai said that while the minister made the comment
sarcastically, if an Israeli family did offer to serve as a foster family, the
ministry would consider allowing the adopted South Sudanese to stay in the
On Tuesday, 400 artists, authors and academics signed a letter
sent to the prime minister, in which they said, “We are appealing to the
sensitivity and moral and diplomatic responsibility of the leaders of the State
of Israel and asking you not to deport 700 natives of South Sudan, which would
subject them to war and hunger and disease.”
Returning them to South
Sudan would endanger their lives, the signatories wrote.
The letter was
signed by authors Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, musician Yehudit
Ravitz and actor Moshe Ivgi, among others.
On Sunday, a collection of
Israeli NGOs wrote a letter to Yishai, in which they called on the minister to
cancel a decision made in late January to deport all South Sudanese in Israel to
South Sudan after April 1.
The ministry said last month that the decision
to deport South Sudanese citizens was made due to the foundation of South Sudan
as an independent country last July.
Until April 1, South Sudanese in
Israel are eligible to receive 1,000 euros in cash per person to voluntarily
return home. After that date, the stipend will no longer be available and South
Sudanese face forced deportation. Those employing or sheltering them could be
subject to legal repercussions, the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration
and Borders Authority said last month.
The NGOs mentioned in their letter
a report compiled last month by Valerie Amos, emergency relief coordinator at
the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in which, after a
trip to South Sudan, she said, “The situation in the country is extremely
precarious, and the risk of a dangerous decline is very real.”
letter, penned by the groups ASSAF – The Aid Organization for Refugees and
Asylum Seekers in Israel, the Hotline for Migrant Workers, the Association for
Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and Amnesty
International Israel, among others, called on Yishai to cancel the deportations,
saying that returning to South Sudan at this time could seriously endanger the
lives of those returning.
The organizations called on Israel to follow
the example of other Western countries to continue group protection for South
Sudanese even though the country is now independent. Many of the South Sudanese
who face deportation are not sure if they qualify for South Sudanese
citizenship, as the country did not exist when they fled Sudan for Israel, the
The organizations called on Israel to allow South Sudanese to
stay in the country, at least until their country becomes more stable, or at
least until they can establish their right to citizenship there.
Saturday evening, supporters plan to hold a protest outside the Tel Aviv
Cinematheque, where they will call on the government to cancel the deportations.